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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Girona

Gerona lies 35km/22mi inland from the Costa Brava on the Río Ter, which is joined here by the Onyar, the Güell and the Galligans.

History

Gerona was founded by the Iberians, probably in the period of the first Greek settlements, and has preserved remains of its Iberian walls. In Roman times it was known as Gerunda, and the Arabs (from whom it was briefly recaptured by Charlemagne in 785) called it Jerunda. Strategically situated on the most important road through the Pyrenees, it was frequently fought over and became known as the "town of a thousand sieges". In the late 10th century it became an independent County, and later became subject for a time to the Counts of Barcelona. During the rising against Napoleon, in 1809, Gerona withstood a French siege for seven months before surrendering. Thereafter the French occupation lasted until 1814.

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Old Town

The old town rises up the right bank of the Onyar. Between the railroad bridge in the north and the Plaza de Cataluña spanning the river in the south a colorful line of old houses flanks the river, dominated by the church of San Feliú and the cathedral. Parallel to the riverbank is the Rambla de la Libertat (pedestrian zone), the main street of the old town, lined with arcades, shops and pavement cafes.

San Feliú (Sant Fèlix)

The medieval Saint Feliu church with its massive tower, located in Gerona.
Near the north end of the old town stands the former collegiate church of San Feliú (11th-18th C.), a Gothic structure with very low aisles in which are Late Romanesque galleries with sculptured capitals. The choir was completed in 1318; the west front dates from the 17th century. The tall tower, originally Gothic, was struck by lightning in 1581 and was considerably altered in the subsequent rebuilding.

San Feliú- Interior

The church of San Feliú in Gerona is entered through the doorway on the south side. There are no transepts, but on the north side is the vaulted Baroque chapel of San Narciso (dedicated to St Narcissus, bishop of Gerona in the time of Diocletian). In the choir, which has a carved Gothic altar, are a number of sarcophagi of the second-sixth centuries A.D.

Portal de Sobreportes

Going along the south side of Sant Fèlix, we come to the Portal de Sobreportes, a massive town gate flanked by two towers, beside which is the Neo-Classical church of San Lucas (Catalan Sant Lluc).

Plaza de la Catedral

Beyond the Portal de Sobreportes in Gerona is the little Plaza de la Catedral, most of which is taken up by the Baroque staircase of 90 steps (1690) leading up to the cathedral.

Casa Pastors

Opposite the foot of the steps in the Plaza de la Catedral is the palace of the Pastors family, which was given its present aspect in the 18th century. It is now occupied by the Law Courts.

Museo de História

In Carrer de la Força, which runs south from the square in front of the cathedral, is an old Capuchin friary which now houses the Museo de História, a museum on the history of the town, concentrating particularly on the prehistory of the region and the age of industrialization (19th-20th C.). The part of the old town which extends south from here was until the 15th century the Jewish quarter of Gerona.
Address: Carrer de la Força 27, E-17004 Gerona, Spain

Cathedral

CathedralCathedral View slideshow
The Gothic Cathedral which dominates Gerona was begun in 1312 and completed towards the end of the 16th century. At the top of a flight of steps is the Baroque main doorway (18th century), with modern sculptural decoration. Outside the south side of the church with its Gothic doorway (lacking its original sculpture) is a small square.
Address: Plaça dels Apóstols, E-17004 Gerona, Spain

Cathedral - Interior

The nave (aisleless) is one of the largest vaulted spaces in Gothic architecture, 50m/165ft long, 23m/75ft across and 34m/112ft high. The apse is considerably lower and, with its ambulatory and ring of chapels, is in accordance with the classical canon of forms. The high altar, under a baldachin, has a gilded retablo, a masterpiece of 14th century silversmith's work. Beyond this is the bishop's throne, a stone seat embellished with friezes of arabesques which is popularly known as the Throne of Charlemagne.

Cathedral - Museum

The tower of the Gerona Cathedral.
On the north side of the church a doorway gives access to the Cathedral Museum. Among its principal treasures are (in the first room) a Romanesque Virgin (11th-12th C.), strongly esembling the Madonna of Montserrat, and an illuminated manuscript of the "Apocalypse" (975). In the second room are a Late Gothic cross (1503-07) set with pearls and enamel inlays and a 14th century cross with champlevé enamel decoration. In a wall case in Room 3 are silver book covers (14th C.), and in the case in the center of the room a fine collection of 15th Century sculpture. Here too are a Bible which belonged to Charles V (14th C. Italian work) and two fine altar frontals (Nos. 41 and 42), one (14th C.) with gold and silver embroidery, the other (13th C.) with 21 scenes from the life of Christ.

Cathedral Museum - Creation Tapestry

Room 4 contains the finest thing in the museum, a magnificent tapestry (strictly speaking, not tapestry but silk embroidery) depicting the Creation. This 11th century work is based on Early Christian models (as is shown, for example, by the beardless figure of Christ as Creator of the world in the middle of the cycle, surrounded by the Latin text "And God said, Let there be light, and there was light").

Cathedral - Cloister

From the Museum a short flight of steps leads down to the Romanesque cloister, trapezoid in plan, which dates from the 12th century. Some of the figural capitals of the columns are damaged, but they are still remarkable for their variety of subject-matter, including both Biblical themes and scenes from popular life. Under the vaulting are numerous grave slabs. Above the cloister rears the stump of a Romanesque tower, articulated by single and double-arched windows.
On the upper floor of the cloister are a fine collection of richly embroidered vestments. From one of the galleries there is an attractive view of the gardens to the north, the little Romanesque church of San Pedro de Galligans and a fragmentary stretch of the old town walls.

Museum of Art

The Museum of Art, on the south side of the cathedral, has exhibits ranging in time from the pre-Romanesque period to the early 20th century.
Address: Pujada de la Catedral 12, Spain

Passeig Arqueològic

Arab BathsArab Baths

Arab Baths

Starting from the cathedral, a signposted archeological trail guides visitors to all the important sights in the old town. This leads through the Portal de Sobreportes and comes (on the left) to the Arab Baths, which probably developed out of a Jewish mikwe (ritual bath). The Late Romanesque vaulting has recently been restored.

San Pedro de Galligans (Sant Pere)

The Romanesque church of San Pedro de Galligans lies lower down, beyond the little Río Galligans. This sturdy 12th Century building, which once belonged to a Benedictine abbey, is now deconsecrated, and the cloister houses an Archeological Museum. The round-arched doorway of the church, now used for art exhibitions, has fine rosette and interlace ornament.
Official site: Spain
Address: Sant Pere, Placa de Santa Llucia, E-17007 Gerona

San Nicolás (Sant Nicolau)

A short distance from San Pedro is the much smaller Romanesque church of San Nicolás (12th C.), now also deconsecrated and used for exhibitions.

Other Sights

Pina de Rosa Botanic GardenPina de Rosa Botanic Garden Jaume Meneses

Automobile Collection of Salvador Claret

The collection of Salvador Claret began in 1950 with an acquisition of a 1923 Model T Ford. As he obtained more cars, Salvador decided to open a museum. The museum now has over 170 vehicles dating back to an 1883 Merry Weather and covering the entire automotive period up to the 1970's.
A Hispano-Suiza engine and Auster Autocrat make up the small aircraft exhibition.
Address: Carretera Nacional II, Km 698, E-17410 Gerona, Spain

Marimurtra Botanic Garden

Marimurtra Botanic Garden owns 2ha estate on Costa Brava in Barcelona. On 0.25ha of rock perched on a cliff is the botanic garden with over 3,500 species included a wide range of Mediterranean plants and exotic flora from South America, Australia and South Africa.
Address: Passeig Carles Faust 9, Apartat Correus 112, E-17300 Girona, Spain

Pina de Rosa Botanic Garden

Pina de Rosa Botanic Garden is one of the most important tropical, succulent and desert plant collections in the world. There are over 7,000 species arranged systematically in rock-edged beds. The collection of opuntias (600 species of 18 genera) is considered to be the most important in the world and the best in Europe.

Jardin de Santa Clotilde

The entrance of Jardin de Santa Clotilde is marked by four large cylinders of clipped cypress and the terrace gardens are crossed by elegant stairs and ramps.

New Town

Placa de IndependenciaPlaca de Independencia
The new town of Gerona lies on the left bank of the Onyar.

Plaça de Independència

In the arcaded Plaza de la Independencia, near the river, is a monument commemorating the town's heroic resistance to Napoleon's troops.

Parque de la Dehesa (Parc de la Devesa)

On the north side of Gerona is the Parque de la Dehesa.

Surroundings

BesaluBesalu

Ullastret, Spain

Near the village of Ullastret, 30km/19mi east of Gerona in the plain round the mouth of the Riu Ter, is the Iberian Village, an excavated Iberian settlement, now laid out as an archeological park.

Poblado Ibérico - History

The settlement is one of the largest of its kind in northeastern Spain. The Puig de Sant Andreu and the Illa d'en Reixac, linked by a narrow isthmus of land, were already occupied by man in the Palaeolithic era, and here, probably from the seventh century B.C. onwards, a fortified settlement grew up. By the sixth Century B.C. the Iberians, the original inhabitants of this region, had already developed active trading relations with the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the Greeks. It was as a result of Greek influence that the Iberians began to build in stone and to use the potter's wheel. By the turn of the fifth century B.C. the Iberian town, now surrounded by a stout stone wall, was at the peak of its development and its prosperity. In the third Century, however, strong competition from the nearby Greek foundation of Emporion brought about its decline, and in the second century B.C. the town was abandoned. It remained forgotten until the thirties of this Century; then after its rediscovery systematic excavations began in 1947 and are still going on.

Poblado Ibérico - Site

A short distance from the entrance to the site are the walls on the west side of the town, with six large round towers set at fairly regular intervals of 30m/100ft. In this area too there are six gates through the walls.
The best place to start the tour of the site is Gate 1. From here a broad street (Street 1) leads to the upper town or acropolis, on the highest point of which is the Museum. Excavation has made most progress in this area, just inside the town walls. Here and there are large shafts driven vertically into the ground which no doubt served as store-rooms and cisterns.
To the left of Street 1 is a residential district (Predis subirana), also with the foundations of buildings and a cistern. In the upper town the remains of two temples have also been excavated. The area farther north is not yet open to the public.

Poblado Ibérico - Museum

The Museum, on the highest point of the acropolis, displays agricultural implements, weapons, etc., of the Iberian period, a number of human skulls (some from victims of execution, some showing evidence of trepanation), fossil fauna, spinning whorls and loom weights, moulds for bronze fibulas and painted pottery (mostly imported Greek ware from Attica). In the main hall is a model of the site, and on the walls are large sketch maps showing the places of origin of the coins and pottery displayed and an archeological map of Gerona province.
Address: Puig de Sant Andrew, E-17133 Ullastret, Spain

La Bisbal

8km/5mi southwest of Ullastret, on C 255, is the little town of La Bisbal (alt. 39m/128ft), a center of pottery manufacture, with a wide range of products from simple and attractive ware to the merest kitsch. In the town can be seen a Romanesque castle, once the residence of the bishops of La Bisbal.

Poblado Ibérico - Camp Triangular

In the Camp Triangular ("Triangular Field") objects of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. - the town's heyday - were recovered.

Banolas, Spain

Banolas 2808
The little town of Bañolas has an archeological museum (to the east of the Plaça Major) displaying finds from the surrounding area.

San Esteban (Sant Esteve)

On the east side of Bañolas is the church of San Esteban, originally founded in the ninth century, destroyed by French troops in 1665 and thereafter rebuilt in Neo-Classical style. It contains a very beautiful Gothic retablo, the Retaule de la Mare de Deu de l'Escala (by Joan Antigo, 1437-39).

Lago de Banolas

Banyoles Lake.
To the west of Bañolas lies the Lago de Bañolas, the largest natural inland lake in Catalonia, which was the venue of the rowing events in the 1992 Olympic Games. At the southwest end of the lake is the village of Porqueras (Catalan Porqueres), with a beautiful little Romanesque church.

Besalu, Spain

Besalu 2817
16km/10mi northwest of Bañolas on C 150, on the Río Fluvia (Catalan Riu Fluvià), is Besalú (alt. 151m/495ft), a little town which has preserved its medieval character. In the center of the old town is the arcaded Plaza Mayor (Catalan Plaça Major).

San Vicente (Sant Vincenç)

Northwest of the Plaça Major is the Late Romanesque parish church of San Vicente, with a 16th century tower. On the southeast side is the fine Porta de Sant Rafael, with a round-headed arch and figural capitals.

San Pedro (Sant Pere)

South of the Plaça Major is the massive church of San Pedro, one of the finest Romanesque churches in Catalonia. The columns on either side of the middle window in the otherwise undecorated west front have richly carved figural capitals and are flanked by two figures of lions. Opposite the church is a handsome mansion, the Casa Cornelià.

Medieval Bridge

Medieval bridge in Besalu.
On the road to the medieval bridge spanning the Fluvià, on the right, is a Jewish ritual bath (mikwe). The bridge, which was rebuilt in 1315, has a defensive tower in the middle and a gate with a portcullis at the end nearest the town.

Castellfullit (Castellfollit)

Castellfullit, 16km/10mi west of Besalú on C 150, is fantastically situated on a spur of basalt which falls almost vertically down to the Riu Fluvià. Near the outermost tip of the crag, high above the abyss, is the old church.

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